Monday, March 11, 2019

Disability-Related Financial Management System

Disability-Related Financial Management System (DFMS)

There is a need for financial advisors, disability benefits experts, and AI developers to develop a comprehensive Disability-Related Financial Management System. Combining artificial intelligence,(AI), a search engine, automation, and human experiences is the only way a genuinely comprehensive Disability Finance Knowledge-Base can be implemented and kept current. A public forum will enable people with disabilities, their family and friends and support group to obtain answers from the knowledge-base as well as other people in the forum. Ratings of responses by forum members will ensure the knowledge-base continues to have the most accurate information. The DFMS will include AI-driven questionnaires and bots that will assist users in building and maintaining budgets that will maximize their chances of financial stability and success. Financial advisors will also be available.

Disability benefits are complex. People have compared it to business payroll but many times more complicated. With business payroll, every state, county, and city has its own rules that may be affected by healthcare plans, retirement plans, savings plans, etc. Disability benefits to differ by state, county and city. Many agencies and corporations offer disability benefits also. Disability benefits depend on many factors including beneficiaries' age, disability, income, assets, onset age of disability, the reason for disability, military status, etc. With business payroll, there are systems built to shield the complexities from businesses. No subject matter expert would be expected to know all that is involved with business payroll without using a system. Yet with disability benefits, we do rely on subject matter expert to know and how people with disabilities can get financing for the products and services they need. To date, our efforts with artificial intelligence are to try to mimic what disability benefits subject matter expert does. We need a system that will comprehensively discover where and how people with disabilities can finance the products and services they need.

There are many good forums re disability benefits see Social Security Forum1 as an example. There are calculators that help people with disabilities understand disability benefits. As an example, see WID's DB1012. There are courses on disability benefits including a certification process. There are books written to help people with disabilities improve their financial health. Tom Foley wrote EQUITY-Asset-Building-Strategies-Disabilities-Empowerment3. All of these are great resources based on the knowledge of subject matter expert. None uses a comprehensive, systematic approach.
In the past few years, I have been receiving funding from the California Regional Center for my personal care attendants. For decades, Denise and I spent many thousands of dollars annually for personal assistant services. It wasn't until one of my attendants ask me why I wasn't receiving services from the Regional Center did I realize that people with developmental disabilities can receive personal assistant services paid for regardless of income or assets. I have always been well connected with the Disability Community. If I didn't realize this benefit was available to me, imagine how unaware the general public must be of the many products and services that are available to them.

Many surveys have been done to understand the financial health of households that have one or more people with disabilities in them. Every study confirmed that the Disability Community has many unique financial needs that are not being met. Programs that provide financial assistance to offset the high cost of living with a disability can be challenging to navigate resulting in funds and resources not being received or maximized. Many people with disabilities do not work because of the fear of losing the benefits they need. Accessing resources and financial support available while staying within guidelines to avoid interruption of benefits is confusing and time-consuming. Budget management on a “fixed income,” much less planning for the future for needed areas like estate planning is demanding, especially without tools and guidance. Many customers with disabilities and their support networks are unaware of resources that can help them with financial management and financial planning. They are unaware that there are financial products that would be effective in specific financial stages, such as educational loans for special education, home loans for modifications, or assistive technology (equipment) loans.

With an effective Disability Financial Management System, a very necessary and profitable business can be established.

Please let me know if you have any questions. Please let me know if you or anyone you know may be interested in investing and/or managing this exciting endeavor.

Go! Go! Go!


Abilicorp 2019

Everyone, including people with disabilities, should have the skills, products, and services they need to work to the best of their abilities.
Abilicorp mission is to initiate and promote new companies and programs that provide financial advice and management enabling people to work and reap the stability and rewards that come with earning an income.
Neil Jacobson, founder, and CEO of Abilicorp retired in 2008 as a Wells Fargo Sr. Vice President after working in their IT area for more than 29 years. Neil has significant disabilities caused by Cerebral Palsy. He has been active in the Disability Movement all through his life focused primarily on improving employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
The U.S. federal government spends more than $100 million annually trying to improve the economic condition of people with disabilities and their families. Wonderful laws such as the Americans with Disability Act that have significantly improved the lives of people with disabilities. Many agencies work extremely hard trying to get people with disabilities jobs. Despite all this, the unemployment rate for this cohort remains relatively unchanged from the 1960s. More than 70% still live below the poverty level. (see The Need for a New Business Model)
The underlying cause for this lack of economic improvements is that people with disabilities are not receiving the skills, products, and services they need. Many public and private agencies run programs designed to provide these necessities. They are tough to find. Qualifying for them can be challenging. The interrelationships between the programs are often extremely complex.
The gig economy is now compounding these problems. In the gig economy, every independent worker must learn how not to feel isolated. Often finding themselves alone in front of a computer or smartphones they must learn to find mentors to help guide them. They must create their own daily structures. With no training or experience, they are expected to do things such as pay taxes, save for retirement, pay for healthcare, save for sick days and vacation days. People with disabilities must also learn how working for themselves will affect their ability to pay for long-term medical expenses including personal assistant services, durable medical equipment, long-term therapies, and maintenance drugs. Perhaps most importantly, independent workers must learn how to market their products and services effectively. (see The Gig Economy)
What does Abilicorp provide?
  1. Financial advice for independent workers
  2. Development consultation of disability-related financial management tools
  3. Promotion of Disabled Owned Business Enterprises
What Businesses Should Be Started?
  1. Financial Management for GIG Workers
  2. Financial Management of Disability-Related Expenses
  3. Remote Assistance
  4. Your Legacy
  5. Archiving
  6. Creating Audio Books for Authors
Blogs will be written describing these and other exciting initiatives. These services and businesses will be owned, managed, and delivered by self-employed people with disabilities and Disabled Owned Business Enterprises. Please let me know if you or anyone you know may be interested in investing and/or managing any of these endeavors.

Friday, March 8, 2019

DRFM Knowledge-Base

Disability-Related Financial Management Knowledge-Base (DFMKB)

Having a disability can be very costly. Disability-related expenses include:
  1. personal assistant services,
  2. durable medical equipment,
  3. long term therapies,
  4. maintenance drugs
  5. wage replacement
  6. adaptive equipment
  7. accessible transportation
  8. home accessibility improvements
  9. workplace accessibility improvement

Many government and non-government agencies offer disability benefits to pay for these expenses. These disability benefits are often based upon a person with a disability's attributes including;
  1. where the person lives (U.S., state, county, city)
  2. age (<18, 18-26, 27-64, >64)
  3. disability ( developmental disabilities, visual disabilities, deaf or hard of hearing, spinal cord injuries, autism, mental health, cognition, emotional, drug addiction
  4. reason for disability (work related, crime-related, military related, accident, birth, genetic, aging)
  5. disability onset age (birth, <18, <27, 27-65, >65)
  6. work status (never worked, working, “on disability,” retired
  7. income
  8. assets

Each disability benefits from each agency usually have its own conditions including;
  1. Definition of products and services offered
  2. Definition of terms
  3. Eligibility criteria for beginning to receive a disability benefit
  4. Criteria for continuing to receive a disability benefit
  5. Application process
  6. Reporting requirements
  7. Restrictions
  8. Exceptions
  9. Interrelationships with other disability benefits and agencies

A comprehensive systematic approach is needed to build a Disability-Related Financial Management Knowledge-Base (DFMKB) to understand which disability benefits are available to an individual given his/her needs and attributes, and the conditions under which the disability benefits can be recognized.
Most, if not all, of the information, can be found on websites. Using AI, the Google Search Engine, the Disability Financial Management Forum, and disability benefits subject matter experts, this can be accomplished. Using the DFMKB, providing financial advice to the Disability Community can be a profitable business.

Please let me know if you or anyone you know may be interested in investing and/or managing this exciting endeavor.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Neil’s WID Conference Speech – Oct. 2014

Neil’s WID Conference Speech – Oct. 2014

I firmly believe that all people must work — even those with disabilities like me. Work brings meaning to life, provides essential social connections and allows people to provide economically for themselves and their families. I was fortunate to have had the values of hard work and independence instilled in me as a young child growing up with cerebral palsy. My parents taught me that I was capable of working despite my disability and achieving personal reliance. As a result, for nearly 30 years I built a career at Wells Fargo, rising to senior vice president of information technology. Also, I helped create the World Institute on Disability’s Center on Economic Growth in 2011. Work gave me a purpose. Work made me proud. Work allowed me to gain economic independence and build a secure financial future.

Unfortunately, our nation has set very low expectations for people with disabilities in terms of employment. This low expectation starts with the government’s definition of disability as the “inability to work.” Under current Supplemental Security Income (SSI) rules, an individual with a disability must prove they cannot work to be eligible for benefits, including health care and other independent living supports. Individuals with disabilities exploring work must balance the need for financial assistance, health care, personal attendant care, and accommodations while overcoming low cultural expectations, lack of employment experience, a challenging job market and employer discrimination.  On top of that, the complexity of the system and disincentives resulting from reliance on vital health care resources and the inability to retain earned assets and remain SSI eligible often prove to be too challenging.

Our current system is written for another time, when we assumed people with disabilities would be dependent on their whole lives on the support and help of the government and others. The Federal government literally called these programs “Aid to the Permanently and Totally Disabled.” These days, new technology, medical breakthroughs, and a recognition that people with disabilities want to work has destroyed this outdated thinking. We need to change with the times. It is time to modernize the traditional SSI program.

This is why WID partnered up with the National Council on Independent Living and Policyworks to design CareerACCESS. CareerACCESS offers an alternative for SSI eligible young adults to escape poverty and dependence. The CareerACCESS goal is to make it easy to work. A young adult working with a Career Coach would develop an Individualized Career Plan to achieve personal and professional goals. CareerACCESS rules would allow increased earnings and remove asset limits to enable the participants to gain financial independence.

For this initiative to get implemented, young adults with disabilities across the US need to take charge of CareerACCESS for change to happen. We need to work together to implement a system that will offer real hope for people with disabilities to fully participate in the nation’s economic growth and achieve their own career goals and independence. Young adults are the voice of the future and represent the change that can take place.

WEB Accessibility Professional Certification Program (WAPCP)

WEB Accessibility Professional Certification Program (WAPCP)

(This was written in January, 2010. It was not funded. A Disabled Owned Business Enterprise should run with the idea!)

 The Computer Technologies Program (CTP) and Abilicorp are seeking $65K in funding to develop, pilot and establish a WEB Accessibility Professional Certification Program (WAPCP). This program will train people with disabilities to analyze and ensure websites meet accessibility standards set forth by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative. Graduates of this program can expect to be employed by Abilicorp and other firms whose business it is to ensure that companies and government agencies websites meet accessibility standards. Once established, WAPCP is expected to be self-sustaining through tuition reimbursement and profit-sharing.

As the internet nears ubiquity in everyone’s life, the need to ensure website accessibility becomes paramount. While the internet can literally open the entire world to people who can access its websites, the internet can also shut out the world to people who cannot access them. Studies have shown that 94% of all sites do not meet accessibility standards and therefore are unusable by up to 18% of the population. This is even though laws including the ADA clearly mandates that websites be accessible. Several large companies, including Target, have recently lost lawsuits claiming their sites to be accessible.

Who better to be WEB Accessibility Professionals than people with disabilities? Who better to implement the Website Accessibility Adherence Program than agencies focused on employment for people with disabilities?

CTP has been successfully recruiting, assessing, training and placing people with disabilities in computer-related fields since 1975. Abilicorp is a disability-focused employment company that does staffing and placement. Abilicorp also provides on-going support services such as mentoring, benefits counseling and adaptive technology assessment and sales. Abilicorp is the first Disabled Owned Business Enterprise certified by the US Business Leadership Network (USBLN).

Abilicorp started doing business in November. In an era of high unemployment and a downsized economy, competing for positions against people who, for the most part, have much more actual work experience proved to be very challenging. It became evident that specialized training that would distinguish Abilicorp “Associates” from the masses is a way to mitigate this problem. Jobs need to be found or created for which people with disabilities are or can be uniquely qualified. Testing and modifying websites, so they meet accessibility standards is an example of an emerging field that people with disabilities can and can be trained to do well. Filling these jobs would give people with disabilities the work experience they need to compete for traditional employment, and would provide Abilicorp the exposure it needs to place other people with disabilities in traditional positions. Neil Jacobson, the Founder, and CEO of Abilicorp, was a co-founder of CTP. It seems natural now to combine efforts through a formal collaboration. WAPCP is their 1st joint venture.

Disability-related soft skills training have always been CTP’s distinguishing forte. These soft skills include being able to comfortably talk about one's disability, knowing how to ask for accommodations and managing Personal Assistant Services at work. Being able to teach this remotely will greatly enhance CTP’s ability to reach many more people with disabilities than the on-site model. Combine this with teaching a unique emerging technology such as WEB accessibility, and you have a course many people will want to take. Combine this with actual careers assisting companies, and government agencies in bringing their websites into ADA mandated accessibility, and you have a program that is sustainable and profitable.

Please let me know if you have any questions or need more information. We look forward to partnering with you on this important and exciting project.

People with Disabilities - An Untapped Resource

 People with Disabilities - An Untapped Resource

(This was published in the URJ 'Torah at the Center' - Oct.2009)
I am often asked, “how can my Temple be more welcoming to people with disabilities?’ I say, get us involved. Help us understand how we can contribute to the synagogue. Help us feel needed. Help us feel wanted.

I am a Board member of Temple Sinai in Oakland and the Chair of its Access Committee. After 29 years of working at Wells Fargo, I retired last year as a Senior Vice President to be the CEO of a nationwide staffing and placement company. I have a significant disability caused by Cerebral Palsy which results in my having very slurred speech, requires me to use a powered wheelchair and necessitates that I do activities of daily living in creative ways.

My wife, Denise, who has a similar disability to mine, started the Access Committee many years ago. The Committee worked hard to get common accessibility issues resolved. Temples need to be wheelchair accessible with wheelchair seating throughout. The Arc and Bima must be accessible. The table where the Torah is read from must be accessible. There need to be Braille prayer books and hearing devices. There need to be tables at Oneg’s and Temple events where people can talk. Drinking straws at these events are also required. Temple meetings need to be held at accessible locations, etc. However, all of these things put the person with a disability on the receiving side of assistance. To feel included, it is vital to be on the giving side as well.

The time I felt the most accepted was when our son, David, was a baby. Since Denise had him all day while I worked, I had night duty. When David woke up hungry at 2am, he didn’t ask if I was able to get up and warm a bottle for him. He didn’t ask if I was too tired. He didn’t ask how I was going to do it. He made no assumptions as to what I could or could not do. He cried and demanded his bottle. I was thrilled. I was needed! (By the way, he’s 22 now and still demanding things – but that’s another Article)

One of our Rabbis, Rabbi Berlin, relates how as a child, her family found a welcoming Temple. Her family, which included a brother with a developmental disability, did not feel welcomed at their old Temple. The Rabbi at the new Temple immediately asked her brother to please turn the lights off before Havdallah and turn the lights back on at the end of the service. The boy was thrilled! From then on he had his job. He knew he was needed. He and his family knew they were wanted! The Rabbi had created an environment where everyone felt valued.

Unemployment rate for people with disabilities still hovers around 70%. This is the same as it was when I grew up in the 1950s. That was before we had all the wonderful laws we have now such as the ADA, 504 and IDEA. This lack of progress is not due to a lack of skills, or education or motivation, but more often lack experience. Children with disabilities rarely are given chores to do. Teens with disabilities are allowed not to participate in school, or sports or religious school. Adults with disabilities are permitted not to work. What better place to get real work experience than in one’s own synagogue

With all the work that goes on in and around Temples, the opportunities to get people involved, including people with disabilities is enormous. While I know that congregations and synagogues will continue to find ways to support people with disabilities, please also consider people with disabilities as an untapped resource. As you find jobs and tasks around your Temple, or Community, or Home or where you work, consider using this untapped resource. People need and want to feel they are part of a community and to be part of Tikun Olam. Become a welcoming community by providing opportunities for everyone to do so.

Temple Sinai Mission Statement

Temple Sinai Mission Statement

In March, the Board of Trustees added the phrase, ‘to make all aspects of Jewish life accessible,’ to the Temple Sinai Mission Statement. This simple phrase has a great meaning to it. It is the Temple’s commitment to working with the congregation in finding ways for each of us to participate in Jewish life to any extent we choose. It is a recognition that accessibility is more than a ramp or a Braille prayer book. It is often a journey many of us make to feel part of our community. Regardless of physical, mental, emotional or spiritual disability and regardless of race, age, sex, sexual orientation or economic status, making Jewish life accessible is a path worth finding. It is also important to remember that while making something accessible may change a group’s habits, it should not change a group’s values.

In support of this addition to the mission statement, the Board of Trustees passed a resolution saying that any Temple Sinai event that will be attended by a person with a disability shall be held at an accessible venue. The Board also added a policy that every two years, a committee of the Board shall be appointed to collaborate with the Access Committee to determine how to take accessibility to the next level.

, As an indication of our commitment to this mission, I am delighted to report that Temple Sinai has integrated seating. There are now eight spaces located in different parts of our sanctuary that people using wheelchairs can comfortably use to be with their friends-and-family.

I am very proud to be a member of a Temple that genuinely wants to be a welcoming community.